There I was, knees quaking with anticipation, hardly noticing my partner, whose knees were equally quivering.
Just moments before, our category of the competition was called early; a well-planned surprise attack by the organizers, I’m sure. My partner, figuring he had a couple of hours before being called up onto the ballroom dance floor, had drifted out into the hallway of the classy hotel to drool over the concessionaires’ many items for dance fanatics. “Novice Latin!” the announcer exclaimed. I whipped my head around to look at him in disbelief. Cold beads of perspiration dotted my forehead as I listened to the numbers of the couples being called up to the dance floor. “#143!” the announcer bellowed. In shock I sprang to my feet, my partner nowhere in site. Finally, after a few seconds which felt like centuries, my partner raced in to join me. I uttered a sigh of relief but that still didn’t quell the flurry of butterfly wings in my stomach. I’m sure my eyes were as large as the taillights of the latest Alero! (as a matter-of-fact they were…shown in photos taken by a wandering photographer hoping to profit from the numerous couples dancing that day.)
And now, feeling like specimens beneath a magnifying glass under the scrutiny of the dance judges strategically positioned around the ballroom floor, here we were, about to embark upon our first ballroom dance competition experience, dazed and shocked at actually being on a competition floor. The myriad of watchful eyes surrounded us from the crowd of people consisting of family members of the competitors, friends, general public, the competitors themselves waiting to be called or just biding their time in hopes of a callback or a win.
“Cha Cha!” called the announcer. “Cha Cha? What’s a Cha Cha???” the thought passed through my dazed brain. The beat of the Cha Cha permeated through the ballroom as my partner thankfully led me through the dance without a stumble or without me passing out from sheer terror. With cold, clammy hands we moved from one dance step to another, desperately scanning our memory banks for clues to the routines we had practiced for the last few months in preparation for our very first dance competition. “Oh God, please let this be over soon!” conveyed my subconscious. Finally, after about a minute and a half, the disk jockey ended the Cha Cha and the competitors scattered to find the perfect positioning on the ballroom floor for the next dance to be called.
“And now the Rumba – dancers please take your positions” bellowed the announcer. We waited tensely for that first beat; I glanced nervously around and couldn’t help wondering if the other couples felt as stressed as we did. As my partner and I took our first Rumba step I had the strangest feeling come over me – a sense of pride at actually being a good-enough dancer to participate in a ballroom dance competition. We completed the Rumba and as we drifted off the dance floor to take our seats, my partner and I glanced at each other. In a fleeting moment I felt his elation; I knew that whether we won or not, we still had accomplished something that many dance couples never experience in their lifetimes, and from that moment on we would never again experience the fear of the unknown as we stepped out onto the competition dance floor.